Swiss banks ordered to pay ex-UBS watchman

The payment to Christoph Meili would be part of an agreement between Swiss banks and Jewish groups to settle the accounts Keystone Archive

A federal judge in New York has ordered payment of $775,000 to a former Union Bank of Switzerland watchman under an accord to settle dormant Holocaust accounts.

This content was published on March 20, 2002 - 19:13

The payment to Christoph Meili would be part of an agreement between Swiss banks and Jewish groups to settle the accounts. Half the money is to be paid to Meili's wife, Giuseppina, from whom he is now separated.

Meili was praised as a hero by some American officials after he took files from the Swiss Banking Corporation, which later merged with the Union Bank of Switzerland to form UBS. The files, dating back to the Second World War, had been due to be shredded at a time of increasing pressure on Swiss banks to reveal their Holocaust era records.

Banking secrecy

However, Meili was sacked shortly after he removed the files in 1997 and he became the subject of a probe by Zurich investigators into whether he had broken banking secrecy laws by making the documents public.

That case was later dropped but Meili claimed that it drove him to leave Switzerland for the United States, where he was granted resident status by a special act of Congress in 1998.

Last year, an independent tribunal based in Zurich awarded $40.6 million to the Holocaust survivors and victims- relatives, in relation to more than 10,000 dormant bank accounts in Switzerland.

Meili's eventual payment may be further reduced by compensation to his former lawyer, Ed Fagan.

Fagan had claimed $4 million for his part in the settlement but according to the New York-based 'Jewish Week' journal, the court is not expected to award him more than $350,000.

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